The Plague of Infidelity and the Current Crisis

I can declare without fear of contradiction that any and all clerical misbehavior of any kind (financial, sexual or Machiavellian maneuvering) can be laid at the doorstep of a loss of identity, a loss of support, and a loss of faith.

Editor’s note: The following homily was preached by Fr. Stravinskas for the Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost (Extraordinary Form), September 9, 2018, at the Church of the Holy Innocents, Manhattan.

I have just returned from a lecture tour in England. A few weeks before my departure, the so-called Grand Jury report from Pennsylvania broke; just before leaving, the McCarrick debacle exploded; while there, the Viganò testimony was released. Will you be surprised when I tell you that I have been inundated with calls, emails and text messages from dozens of bishops, cardinals, media folk and just plain old concerned believers for my “take” on all this? Not a few of you here this morning are in that number. So, here goes.

In today’s extraordinary form of the Mass, we are treated to a passage from St. Paul’s Epistle to the Ephesians (3:13-21). I think we can find some divine guidance for navigating the shoals of the current crisis – and please remember that, etymologically, “crisis” – as used by Hippocrates, the father of medicine – means a “turning point in a disease.” In other words, the disease must be acknowledged and, then, depending on the medicine prescribed and taken (or not), health can be restored.

So, first of all, Paul urges his readers – which means us as well – “not to lose heart.”

Secondly, he situates the Christian life within the eternal plan of God the Father and prays that the Father “may grant you to be strengthened with might through his Spirit in the inner man, and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have power to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fulness of God.” In other words, our problems are spiritual and therefore call for a spiritual remedy.

He then ends with a dramatic flourish: “Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, for ever and ever. Amen.” Again, notice the stress on the spiritual solution – not political, not sociological, not psychological. God’s grace, not human or ecclesiastical planning or scheming or wishful thinking, is what saves us. And finally, his ultimate desire: “To him [God the Father] be glory in the Church.” In the Church? Really? Yes, indeed. Let the rest of this homily flesh out these three elements.

First off, the Pennsylvania report. It is beyond my ken to understand that, with months of advance notice that the document would appear, how and why the bishops of Pennsylvania did not get out in front of it, not merely to prepare their people (as is their obligation) but also to ensure that the general public knows the unvarnished truth, without the intervention of personal agendas. The Church has nothing to fear from the truth, for her Lord taught us that “the truth will make you free” (Jn 8:32). Lies and half-truths, however, must be exposed, especially when they pertain to the Church because we know that many purveyors of “fake news” regarding the Church do so for one reason and one reason alone: to silence her voice on the hot-button moral issues.

What could or should the Pennsylvania bishops have said in advance? Firstly, that the whole report should not be treated as news but should be run on the History Channel. Why? Because there is nothing new in the report; all that is there has been treated before, especially in 2002. Secondly, over half the priests accused are dead, with one man actually having been born in 1896 and accusations going back seventy years! Thirdly, we are dealing here with “accusations,” not convictions. Were some of the accusations valid? Unfortunately, yes, but many could never be substantiated in a court of law. Do any of you want to live in a country or Church where someone’s mere accusation convicts you? Amazingly, only two of the accusations are even able to be prosecuted! If you want real news, it is that out of over 40,000 priests in this country, last year there were only six allegations (with four of them against the same priest), again, I stress “accusations.” The New York City public school system gets that many accusations against its personnel in a month. If you want to read an independent, non-Church critique of the Pennsylvania report, check out the work of David Pierre at Media Watch.

On the McCarrick front, we are dealing with a very convoluted situation. “Everyone knew” about his strange sleeping arrangements with seminarians. So, why wasn’t something done about it? Years ago, I was questioned about this matter by a cardinal in Rome. I told him exactly what I knew – from some of the very seminarians affected, namely, that the Archbishop had invited them into his bed but – never touched them. The biggest difficulty was that no one was willing to testify against him for a variety of reasons. We shall come back to that issue as we move into the “testimony” of Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò.

As you should know, Archbishop Viganò was the apostolic nuncio to the United States for nearly five years. His has been a multi-faceted ecclesiastical service, first having served in various nunciatures around the world, then actually having oversight for all nunciatures, as well as working in several capacities within the Roman Curia. His reputation is unimpeachable, universally acknowledged as competent, faithful, orthodox and honest. Indeed, he got “exiled” from the Vatican to his American post precisely because he was a “whistle-blower” in regard to financial corruption within the Vatican system. I give all this background on the man because not a few who are unhappy with his document have engaged in character assassination against him, incarnating the ancient principle of killing the bearer of bad news.

The report of Viganò is wide-ranging, spanning eleven pages. Frankly, if I had advised him, I would have counseled him to keep it to a page or two, given the inability of moderns to stay focused for more than a minute or two. That said, it is a devastating critique of corruption at the highest levels of the Church. While he does not shy away from discussing sexual immorality within the ranks of the clergy, I would submit that this is not his primary focus. Rather, he shines a laser on the abuse of power by hierarchs and the “old boy” network of ecclesiastical promotion and cover-up. That’s the real story and ex-Cardinal McCarrick features prominently on those fronts, as well as in regard to his bizarre behavior with seminarians.

According to Viganò, Pope Benedict issued sanctions against McCarrick, sanctions which – for whatever reason – were never publicly revealed and which were roundly ignored by the peripatetic McCarrick. Inexplicably, however, we are told that Pope Francis not only lifted those sanctions but used McCarrick as his personal envoy on many significant missions and gave him an outsized influence on the appointment of not a few American bishops– interestingly, the only bishops who have called into question the Viganò document.

Then we come to the heart of the matter: When a reporter posed a question to Francis on his return flight from Dublin about the Viganò testimony, he didn’t deny its validity; he simply, in great arrogance and foolishness (in my estimation), refused to engage the issue. Instead, he punted and told the media to analyze and evaluate the claims. Well, many of us have done so, and the Pope doesn’t come off very well; even the New York Times has complained of Vatican stone-walling. The Pope’s knowledge of problematic behavior and his maintenance of perpetrators of either sexual or financial corruption are the principal charges. Not to answer is a fatal blow to this already shaky pontificate, where the policy has consistently been to ignore inconvenient challenges; we have only to recall the non-replies to the dubia cardinals and the plea of the Filial Correction. That will not and cannot work in the present instance.

It is important to note that most of the criticism of the Viganò bombshell has consisted of ad hominem attacks. The Archbishop did this because he doesn’t like Francis; because he’s a disgruntled former employee; because he’s bitter that he didn’t become a cardinal. All of these are mere distractions from the weighty accusations. If I witness a murder and contact the police about it, it means nothing for the accused to say, “However, he slapped his wife two weeks ago.” The issue is whether or not the accusation is true – and that demands objective investigation. Dozens of bishops have called for this and the president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, has sounded a clarion call for just such an investigation. Archbishop Bernard Hebda of St. Paul-Minneapolis, both a canon and civil lawyer, put it succinctly: “The events of these past weeks have shown that no one can be above the law, regardless of rank or privilege.”

I would be remiss were I not to stress that when any substantive point of Archbishop Viganò’s testimony has been challenged, he has responded with solid, air-tight refutations.

So, how does this whole mess affect you good people, and what can you do about it? Let me suggest a few practical and attitudinal remedies.

First, in this era of instantaneous communication, it is important to withhold judgment until all the facts are in. A rush to judgment is not only unfair but un-Christian. While accusations should be taken seriously, we must always be mindful of a fundamental principle of law: innocent until proven guilty. Assertions are not proof. It is also interesting to observe that Asia Argento, one of the MeToo movement’s activists, is now herself shown to have sexually abused a teenage boy.

Second, while it is true that many of these disasters can be laid at the door of a very bad form of clericalism, the antidote is not anti-clericalism. That’s what happened in the Protestant Reformation as baby and bath water were thrown out together. A similar hysteria marked the French Revolution: “Off with all their heads” became the battle cry. History has taught us the bad fruit of such approaches. I must say, with no small degree of distress, how disappointed I am in all too many would-be “conservative” or “traditional” Catholics who have exhibited a most unhealthy willingness to believe the worst about their clergy, again, without ensuring a proper discernment of the validity of allegations.

Third, I can declare without fear of contradiction that any and all clerical misbehavior of any kind (financial, sexual or Machiavellian maneuvering) can be laid at the doorstep of a loss of identity, a loss of support, and a loss of faith. Clergy – whether priests, bishops or popes – who engage in the actions highlighted in the Viganò report have forgotten who they are as men who stand in persona Christi; have generally been abandoned by fellow clergy (and laity) who have neglected to challenge their malfeasance; and, have relegated faith to the dustbins of their lives.

Fourth, although clerical failures and sins are reprehensible because they sully the wedding garment of Christ’s Bride, His Church, it is important to point out that the laity likewise contribute to this phenomenon. Any sin sullies one’s baptismal garment. The irony in much of the anti-clerical pushback has been that it often comes from laity who are desirous of either forgiveness or whitewashing of their own sins of abortion, birth control, fornication, adultery and use of pornography. Not infrequently, these people ask how the Church got such dysfunctional shepherds. To which, I reply (to their consternation): “You gave them to us!” This is not intended as a justification for clerical sinfulness; it is merely meant to put things in perspective.

Fifth, it should be regarded as a truism that once doctrine and liturgy are tinkered with, morality is not far behind. This past August marked the fiftieth anniversary of my entrance into the seminary – a mere three weeks after Pope Paul VI’s promulgation of Humanae Vitae. As a seventeen-year-old in 1968, I saw no signs of immoral activity. By 1971, with unrelenting liturgical outrages and blasphemies and constant questioning of defined dogma in the classroom, the immorality followed, quite logically.

Sixth, there is a gross media hypocrisy in its coverage of clerical immorality, and it is this: Given the media’s promotion of homosexuality and its regular applause for every athlete or actor who comes dancing out of the closet, is it not strange that they seem so concerned about clergy involved in same-sex activity? Let me underscore that this is not said to provide cover for such behavior; it is simply to point out the great hypocrisy of the media.

Seventh, speaking of hypocrisy, how else can we react to the determinations by the Attorneys General of New York and New Jersey to conduct their own versions of the Pennsylvania charade? The bishops of New York have rightly said that they have nothing to hide; indeed, as in the Pennsylvania case, everything has been revealed for over a decade now. What is behind this move? Nothing short of pure, unadulterated, good-old-fashioned anti-Catholicism. If the Attorneys General are truly concerned about child welfare, why is their scope limited to the Catholic Church? Why not any and all organizations which have had any involvement with children? Why are the rabbis of Brooklyn’s yeshivas not included? Why not the public school teachers? What about the scouts? Here is something concrete you can do: Write these sanctimonious legal eager beavers an open letter raising the very questions I have identified here. Defending the Church when she is being unfairly attacked should be a work of justice proudly engaged by every loyal son or daughter of the Church.

Last but not least, in my opinion, the first order of business for the next conclave should be the production of a set of checks and balances on the conduct of a future pope. In the Middle Ages, popes were answerable to the cardinals. With the Reformation attack on the very office of the papacy, the shoring up of the Petrine ministry was necessary at the Council of Trent, and equally understandable at Vatican I under siege from the so-called Enlightenment. The propping up of the papacy has come at a very dear price, though, and has led to an unthinking Ultramontanism, whereby supporters of papal policies bring out the papal pom-poms to silence any questions or discussions (Notate bene: I am not talking control about doctrinal matters). The deeply disturbing roller-coaster ride of this pontificate should be adequate evidence for the cardinals to re-assert some of their role as co-governors of the Church.

In 1873, the great, insightful and always-prescient Cardinal Newman preached at the opening of the first seminary in England since the Reformation. His sermon was entitled, “The Coming Age of Infidelity.” By “infidelity,” he meant a lack of belief. He told the seminarians: “. . . when Catholics are a small body in a country, they cannot easily become a mark for their enemies, but our prospect in this time before us is that we shall be so large that our concerns cannot be hid, and at the same time so unprotected that we cannot but suffer. No large body can be free from scandals from the misconduct of its members.”

He went on:

. . . with cheap newspapers day by day conveying the news of every court, great and small to every home or even cottage, it is plain that we are at the mercy of even one unworthy member or false brother. . . . the last few years have shown us what harm can be done us by the mere infirmities, not so much as the sins, of one or two weak minds. There is an immense store of curiosity directed upon us in this country, and in great measure an unkind, a malicious curiosity. If there ever was a time when one priest will be a spectacle to men and angels it is in the age now opening upon us.

More than Newman’s sociological analysis, however, was his theological assessment not only of the present moment facing them but of the time to come. See how much of this rings true today, 145 years after Newman first uttered these words:

And if at all times this simple unity, this perfect understanding of the members with the Head, is necessary for the healthy action of the Church, especially is it necessary in these perilous times. I know that all times are perilous, and that in every time serious and anxious minds, alive to the honour of God and the needs of man, are apt to consider no times so perilous as their own. At all times the enemy of souls assaults with fury the Church which is their true Mother, and at least threatens and frightens when he fails in doing mischief. And all times have their special trials which others have not. And so far I will admit that there were certain specific dangers to Christians at certain other times, which do not exist in this time. Doubtless, but still admitting this, still I think that the trials which lie before us are such as would appal and make dizzy even such courageous hearts as St. Athanasius, St. Gregory I, or St. Gregory VII. And they would confess that dark as the prospect of their own day was to them severally, ours has a darkness different in kind from any that has been before it.

And finally, he sums it all up thus:

The special peril of the time before us is the spread of that plague of infidelity, that the Apostles and our Lord Himself have predicted as the worst calamity of the last times of the Church. And at least a shadow, a typical image of the last times is coming over the world. I do not mean to presume to say that this is the last time, but that it has had the evil prerogative of being like that more terrible season, when it is said that the elect themselves will be in danger of falling away. This applies to all Christians in the world, but it concerns me at this moment, speaking to you, my dear Brethren, who are being educated for our own priesthood, to see how it is likely to be fulfilled in this country.

At the outset of this perhaps overly long homily, I said that St. Paul would guide our reflections. I hope I have been a responsible interpreter of him. Therefore, I would repeat: “Do not lose heart!” The Church has been through far worse before; the only difference is that now you and I are in the mix. Then, claim the grace for yourself to be an agent of faithfulness and pray that the Church’s ministers likewise avail themselves of that grace to repent and reform. And, if they are unresponsive, assert your baptismal right to call them to repentance and reform.

If we all do what we can, according to our particular state in life, we will indeed “give glory to [the Father] in the Church,” which is the Bride Jesus loves and for which He died. The greatest consolation of all is that God is faithful, even when we are not – and it is His Church.

About Peter M.J. Stravinskas 76 Articles
Reverend Peter M.J. Stravinskas is the editor of the The Catholic Response, and the author of over 500 articles for numerous Catholic publications, as well as several books, including The Catholic Church and the Bible and Understanding the Sacraments.

48 Comments

  1. Fr. Stravinskas:

    The most important salient problem is that we have living Bishops who have for 16 years since the scandal broke, manipulated Jesus’ Holy Church to do 2 things: (1) escape accountability and punishment for crimes of abuse coverup and/or abuse complicity; and (2) tolerate or outright promote gender ideology to destroy the sexual integrity of young Catholics.

    Case #1: the current Archbishop of St. Louis, Bishop Carlson, who can be seen on video in 2014 (at Rod Dreher’s site) pretending that he didn’t know that sex abuse of minors is a crime. And this same man dares announce a Mass of Reparation!?

    Case 2: Open promotion of “LGBT” behavior in many dioceses in California and New York and New Jersey and Florida etc etc etc.

  2. [USE this wording: notice the added “by Pope Francis and” inserted in the last paragraph. PB]

    Excellent article. Randomly, here are four responses:

    First, prescinding from possible and awaited future words and actions, in the cause of trend-setting accompaniment we might promote yet another re-translation of Scripture: “Thou art Peter, and upon this ‘stonewall’ [replacing rock] I will build my Church” (Mt 16:18).

    Second, Archbishop Vigano’s letter is actually better in eleven pages than in the recommended and more easily dismissed one or two pages. The echo with “Chapter Eleven” bankruptcy seems apt, and any shorter letter would lack the granularity of detailed factual grounding (and maybe the footnote as to sources). Recall, too, that in July of 2004 McCarrick handled a longer correspondence from Cardinal Ratzinger by distributing it nationally with the one- or two-page cover letter removed. A leaked copy later revealed the clarity summarized only in the cover letter: “Not all moral issues have the same moral weight as abortion and euthanasia….There may be a legitimate diversity of opinion even among Catholics about waging war and applying the death penalty, but not however with regard to abortion and euthanasia.”

    Third, very much in support of Stravinskas’ message on “perspective”, we have this from the novelist Georges Bernanos: “But hidden sin poisons the air which others breathe, and without such corruption at the source, many a wretched man, tainted unconsciously, would never have become a criminal….We couldn’t go on living if we thought such things….I don’t think we could. I don’t suppose if God had given us the clear knowledge of how closely we are bound to one another both in good and evil, that we could go on living…”(Diary of a Country Priest, 1937).

    Fourth, upon careful consideration, a focused message one might hope for from the USCCB annual conference in November could include a strong “recommendation” —that Vatican employees fired by Pope Francis and without explanation should be reinstated. In mind are the three who worked under Cardinal Gerhard Muller and who, we now read, were dealing with cases of sexual abuse (in Chile? even in Washington D.C.?). Restitution would seem to call for this early step in merciful justice.

  3. He started well but eventually went off the rails later in this piece which seemed rational til the laity are to blame part. If a layman kicks his calico cat in a sin of anger, this does not make a priest sodomize a child. In fact, if a layman has a non marital sexual affair with a member of the opposite sex…that also does not cause gay acts in a priest. The Sinai Covenant penalized hetero couple number one with non divorceable marriage and a fine of 50 sides of silver ( read Deut.22:28-29 in tandem with Exodus 22:15-16 ) and it punished couple number two with the death penalty.
    Benefit of the doubt tends to wane after $2 billion of laity money gone out the window. I bailed on the essay as it wandered into public school teachers…who the government has been indicting constantly for years but not as an entity but as individuals….it considers us an entity with its own secrets unlike public schools. Google “ female teacher arrested “….then press images…hundreds will appear…hundreds in jail.

  4. Sorry, but this is nothing more than the current narrative we have been getting from the church and frankly, it just further proves that the clergy is clueless. Yes, this is a spiritual issue, that only God can do what is right and just and we must fervently pray that God rights this sinking ship
    Yes, this is also a human problem, and there is nothing that states we must sit there and wait until perpetrators and their enablers decide that they won’t do it anymore.
    When we think of great horrors through out history, there is the spiritual where we pray for God to intervene, and there is the humanity that must act to end horrors. This article is telling us to wait, which if anyone who has not been living in a cave has already been waiting decades for the church.
    Sorry, our job as christians is to make sure it does not happen again, all those involved need to be removed, and all the documents revealed. No more secrets, no more lies, no more violence, no more evil.
    This guy needs to educate himself, needs to stop spinning this crisis, needs to stop blaming everyone but himself and his fellow clergy. What he is not saying is that the abuses caused by the clergy and vowed members does not stop with this scandal in Pennsylvania, but is world wide and comprises other dimensions like orphanages, the laundries in Ireland, schools, and every other so called catholic institution. So for him to just address this current issue is only because everyone is speaking out. I have no faith in the clergy, and that I give to God to handle, but I will not stay silent, nor tolerate the current spin coming out.

  5. As much as I admire and respect Fr Stravinskas are we to believe that a man first bishop of Metuchen then Newark NJ was protected from sexual abuse allegations by young men in both dioceses with monies collected from Laity for support of their Church then elevated to Cardinal Archbishop of Wash DC and who selected as his auxiliary homosexual advocate Fr Kevin Farrell roomed with him several years who owned a seaside NJ home invited seminarians and young priests and slept with them is innocent until proved guilty? The Church requires strong committed effort to be cleansed. I end my comment acknowledging Fr Stravinskas is a far better priest than myself nonetheless the truth must be addressed here.

    • THE BELLA DODD MOVEMENT and the BOOK AA-1025 EXPLAIN IT ALL.. MATTHEW 16:18 ALSO SAYS IT ALL.. SATAN WILL NEVER DESTROY GODS ONE AND ONLY CHURCH.. WE MUST FORGIVE AND PRAY FOR ALL SOULS LIKE JESUS DID DYING ON THE CROSS OR HE WILL TELL US ON OUR JUDGEMENT DAY HE DOES NOT KNOW US.. IN THE EYES OF GOD ALL SINS ARE THE SAME EXCEPT THE SIN AGAINST THE HOLY SPIRIT WHICH IS UNFORGIVABLE. SO LIVE THE GOSPEL BE GODS LIGHT AND PRAY FOR THE CONVERSION OF ALL SOULS AND ESPECIALLY FOR THE HEALING AND DELIVERANCE. ABUSE IS EVERYWHERE FATHERS ABUSE DAUGHTERS THERE IS NOTHING WORSE THAN THAT AND IS MUCH HIGHER THAN THE 1% IN OUR CHURCH. THE PROTESTANT COMMUNITIES IS 300% AND SATAN HAS WON BECAUSE OF PORNOGRAPHY AND THE MOVIE INDUSTRY. SO FIGHT BACK WITH PRAYER , FASTING AND SACRFICE

      • Michael Brown, Thank you for your response to this article. So many are quick to throw the first stone. This abuse is everywhere and the Catholic Church is held to a higher standard.Prayer and fasting is truly needed.

      • Michael Brown,
        Even Our Lord requires justice with mercy. With confession, we receive a penance towards this end and have to suffer what Our Lord allows us too to repair this temporal punishment… with some sins restitution is also required.
        Be careful to include this side of Catholic teaching when you call for mercy… especially when commenting on this horrendous abuse by the clergy. Whether intended or not, those who don’t include this, come off a callous towards the victims and can really re-victimize them by by making them think that what was done to them is not worth demanding justice and accountability for… basically they are worthless. Not the best analogy, but how would you feel if someone robbed you of a large some of money (your children’s inheritance). You caught them on your security camera and call the police. The police arrest the man and find the money. The police call you to come down to the police station. You go and are there with the arresting officer and the thief. The police officer begins by telling you to forgive the thief. You ask for your money, again the officer says to you, you have to forgive the thief. You say this is my money, I need it back… again, the policeman says, just forgive him and forget about the money. We will put a ankle bracelet on the thief so that he doesn’t come within a block of your home, so don’t worry about him coming back… he’ll be free to go elsewhere though, but just be merciful to him and forget about the whole affair. You can forgive him all you want but this thief is required to follow God’s commandments too, and that requires of him to satisfy for his injustice to you from what he stole from you.

        Also, you are wrong about all sins being the same in the eyes of God except for the sin against the Holy Spirit. Besides mortal and venial, there are degrees in both. There are four sins that cry to Heaven for vengeance(wilfull sodomy is one of them and involved in the clergy abuse cases). Our Lord even said that the sins of the cities of Corozin and Bethsaida were worse than that even of Sodom and Gommorah which was the hearing of God’s truth and confirmed by miracles, yet still denied by them.

        Finally, while abuse may be everywhere, it should not be used to counter what is going on in the Church. There should be zero percent in the Church. So, comparing the Catholic Church with protestant and secular institutions comes off as callous too to the victims(whether intended or not). People say these things to ‘put things into perspective’. The only perspective we need and should be concentrating on is keeping this from ever happening in the Church and bringing the perpetrators to justice. They can confess thier sins while serving out thier time in prison. They would have much time to do a thorough examination of conscience and pray many rosaries and Divine Mercy chaplets. That is, if they are truly repentant… which God requires to dispense His Mercy.
        I am and will fight back with prayer, fasting and sacrifice first with calling for justice for the victims also!

      • I read AA-1025 several years ago. I am told that it is a “story” based upon truth. If you want the actual story, you can find this 32-page booklet on the ‘Net: “The Real Story of AA-1025: The confession of Mikolaj, The Antipriest.

        I have known about Bella Dodd for years. You can find her testimony before Congress in the mid-1950s in the U.S. Congressional Record. Your local librarian can help you identify it. I have just purchased her book, “The School of Darkness” on the internet.

    • Fr Stravinskas makes a very valid point in overreaction and apparent anti Catholicism in the States’ attorney generals investigating dioceses now Nation wide often citing allegation rather than conviction. However the issue of abuse isn’t related to “the old boy network of promotion and cover-up”, rather it’s the meteoric rise of Cardinal Kevin Farrell from McCarrick’s appointed auxiliary to Archbishop of Houston to his appointment by the Pontiff as Prefect to the Dicastery on Laity and Family that suggests a homosexual network of protection and advancement. What we have with Cardinals McCarrick, Farrell if not in each instance direct evidence rather an added overwhelming amount of circumstantial evidence. The Laity perennially neglected dismissed talked down to must be incorporated in cleansing the Church if we are to regain their trust.

  6. The worm is turning and about time. Unfortunately like all things human, it will have unintended consequences. However, we must move forward with moral courage and prayer. I’ve always been skeptical of the ecclesiastical community to deal with existential threats because of their long view. I am however equally skeptical of laity in dealing with existential threats because of our short view. Right now though, I believe some short view thinking is in order.

    • Thank you for your very reasoned response. So many of the commenters obviously did not read what I wrote. I did NOT tell anyone to wait for some supernatural intervention. I DID call the laity — and the whole Church — to act NOW in very commonsensical ways. I ALSO cautioned against anti-clericalism, which is rife in so many of the comments. Many of them exhibit the very qualities I highlighted. Remember: I wrote in support of the primordial whistle-blower, Abp Vigano! Calm down, for the sake of Christ (literally) and His Church, which you claim to love.

      • Fr Stravinskas, OK, fine, good article.
        Your point fourth point paragraph is where you lost a lot of us because it is both inaccurate and the usual clerical distractor from the main issue.
        We trustingly gave the Church our sons, as best we could raise them, to serve Christ. Nothing less.
        Your brother priests sodomized, confused and psychologically wounded many of them until they bailed out or hunkered down in submission. Muchas gracias, Padres.
        My many sins are horrible but have zero to do with the McCarrick monsters and lying JamesMartinsSJs of the Church.
        You know that and, unfortunately, you own it.
        It seems, even now, you fail to understand the level of rightous anger the deplorable pewsitter has over these crimes. And that’s too bad because in so many other ways you are very likely an excellent priest.

  7. I agree with above commenters that Fr Stravinskas’ take on the homosexual/cover-up crisis and what the Church has done and needs to do about it, especially under Pope Francis, falls faaaaaaaaaar short of the mark regards what parents who encourage their young men to become priests expect. Let’s see………is Fr. James Martin still running around giving guest talks on the greatness of gayness in the Church. Yup. May the Lord & Holy Spirit indwelling move those with courage to keep pressing forward for straight-up investigation to root out homosexuality and cover-up in God’s Catholic Church. May God’s Mercy…….AND……..Justice reign over the crisis in His sinner run Church. “Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required, and from him to whom they entrusted much, they will demand the more”.

  8. Fr Stravinskas,

    I have enjoyed your articles before but this one is quite flawed, terribly flawed at that.

    You said: “The irony in much of the anti-clerical pushback has been that it often comes from laity who are desirous of either forgiveness or whitewashing of their own sins of abortion, birth control, fornication, adultery and use of pornography.”

    Oh really> Well, I have not subscribed to any of the sins you have listed and were I to give in to them at some point I will recognize it as a grave sin. Which is why I go to confession. I am angry at the clergy for the fact that they have been called to be shepherds not wolves. I am angry at them because they were not forced to be clergy, they chose to be. In fact, it seems now that some have become priests precisely because it is easier to hide their homosexual activity behind the collar.

    You also said: Not infrequently, these people ask how the Church got such dysfunctional shepherds. To which, I reply (to their consternation): “You gave them to us!”

    Well that is just plain rubbish. The laity did not “give” the church the clergy. The priest CHOSE of their own free will to become priests. The laity DID NOT “give these vile creatures to the church’. Some were so before they entered the priesthood and some were corrupted within the seminary and the parish.

    Now I understand that you are a priest and would like to defend your fellow priests but quite frankly it is indefensible.

    So I ask, what did you know? Were you aware of a priest here and there being unfaithful to their vows? What did you do? Were you aware of homosexual clergy doing the rounds of gay bars or having sex with fellow homosexual priests? What did you do?

    How many priests can really say that they did not know of at least one priest who had committed sodomy or abused someone. What did they do?

  9. Fr. Stravinskas:

    It seems you agree that Bishops must somehow be investigated and exposed. Since the Church “governed” by Pope Francis appears to refuse to do this, the faithful will support the state doing it.

    If God Almighty wills it, the state will work to do His will.

    Of course, we recognize that “the state” is also corrupt, and its agents probably have personal and political relationships with many of our corrupt Bishops, so that itself is fraught with complications.

    In turn, I share your concerns about general attacks against clergy, which is also unjust.

    I remain in a state of anger, and distrust, which I believe is appropriate to the situation. I join all others who obey the commands of Jesus to drive out this pervasive evil: we must fast and pray.

    • “Of course, we recognize that “the state” is also corrupt, and its agents probably have personal and political relationships with many of our corrupt Bishops, so that itself is fraught with complications. ”

      Not to mention that its agents might also be anti-Cathoilic; witness the attempts to force Catholics to fund abortion and contraception.

      • Yes…emphatically so.

        In fact, the state agents that hate the Catholic faith and its pro-life and pro-family values are also vey likely the ones that have “sympathetic interests” with those Bishops who are negligent or complicit in coverup and abuse.

        We know that McCarrick and Mahony and Wuerl et al have enormously powerful connections.

  10. Infidelity is indeed the cause of the current crisis in the Churcxh. Infidelity to Doctrine by heterodox priests and prelates that condemns sins of the flesh (especially sodomy, a sin that cries to heaven for vengeance). Infidelity to Canon Law which calls for those who engage in sins of the flesh to be laicized instead of protected and promoted. And infidelity to the doctrine of Hell, of just punishment for sin in this life and the next (Venerable Fulton Sheen called failure to punish crime not mercy, but cowardice).

  11. Fr. Stravinskas:

    I reread your column, and I realize I didn’t give it due attention, and it is an excellent column.

    And I thank you for it.

    The crisis is, as your column recognizes, is what I will call “a systemic and widespread apostasy” that has its own regenerating engine throughout the ranks of Bishops, their diocesan bureaucracies, the seminaries, and the vast “post-Catholic” educational system.

    In other words, the “governing and sustaining mechanisms” of the Church are also now in systemic and widespread apostasy.

    The ultimate question is whether in God’s omniscience this is not yet “the fullness of time,” in which case somehow He will system His Church, or whether, as Jesus prophecied: “When the Son of Man returns, will He find faith on earth?”

    Your friend in Christ

  12. On Fr. Stravinskas note on infidelity, the sex abusers and coverup artists have their nexus with infidelity in the very same person: McCarrick. Of course, he is just one example of his tribe.

    In 1967, McCarrick, then president of the University of Puerto Rico, co-authored the Land of Lakes statement, whereby prominent “Catholic” (actually post-Catholic) University leaders declared they were no longer bound to teach according to the faith.

    50 years later, 90% of formerly “Catholic” universities cannot be recommended as faithful for parents to send their children (per the Newman Society).

    In a nutshell, the apostates control the papacy, and it appears most of the episcopal ranks, the seminaries and the vast majority of “post-Catholic” colleges.

    And we have decadent Bishops like Archbishop Carlson of St. Louis, who can be seen on video at Rod Dreher’s American Conservative Site, in a 2014 deposition on sex abuse, pretending he didn’t know sex abuse of minors was a crime, conducting “Catholic theater” about Masses if Reparation,

  13. Below is a Sunday homily [Sep 9, 2018] by Fr. John Lankeit of Phoenix Diocese I would suggest to Fr. Stravinkas and ALL Catholics who want to understand the depth of present Church crisis. He speaks about the “Awakening of ears” and the abandonment of a supernatural orientation, manifested & perpetrated by spineless, faithless, false fathers at all levels of the Church Christ shed His blood for. “Beware of false prophets who come to you as wolves in sheep clothing.”

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BCtGs5YByqg

  14. I have lost my faith in the Church “heirarcy” not in the Lord. Not only because of the abuse crisis, it was failing far prior because of clericalist, holier than thou, interaction with clergy available to me while growing up Catholic. I have always heard groanings of how busy and overworked priests are. If they are so busy they cannot speak with parishoners, but can speak about them to others (yes!) how is it they have time to abuse people for their own sexual gratification. I have rarely had positive interaction with clergy available to me. And I am done with this Church.

    • Anne,

      After my adult conversion, I wandered throughout my diocese until I found a parish with good priests and serious faithful. It isn’t easy. I pass several parishes to attend Mass and go to Confession at a parish on Detroit’s devastated east side. Don’t give up.

      Graham

  15. Hi great article.. I actually spoke with the Penn State Attorneys office and wrote them an email seeking some comments .. here is what I wrote, (they did call me and tried to have discussion but it was a low level person who said (its all in the report online) here is what i wrote
    I run Mystic Post a digital Catholic news magazine and I wanted to ask a couple of questions

    1, Was Mr. Shapirio aware of the progress made since 2002 by the Catholic Church in its efforts to protect children against predator pedophilia priests. The Vatican issued this statment:
    “Most of the discussion in the report concerns abuses before the early 2000s,” the statement reads. “By finding almost no cases after 2002, the Grand Jury’s conclusions are consistent with previous studies showing that Catholic Church reforms in the United States drastically reduced the incidence of clergy child abuse.” The statement goes on to say, “The Holy See encourages continued reform and vigilance at all levels of the Catholic Church, to help ensure the protection of minors and vulnerable adults from harm.” The statement from the Press Office also expresses the Holy See’s desire “to underscore the need to comply with the civil law, including mandatory child abuse reporting requirements.”
    2. Does Mr. Shapiro believe the Church has been successful in protecting children ..that is, does Mr. Shapiro agree with the Churches findings?

    3. Does Mr. Shapiro believe the State of Pennsylvania has a duty to promote the truth to its citizens about the safety of children in the Catholic church. After all the Catholic Church is a very large institution and many PA. citizens are very confused right now.

    Thank you..

    steve ryan
    publisher
    Mystic Post

  16. Very disappointing article. With no disrespect meant, Father seems to be an academic . I wonder how much pastoral experience he has, and if he is a diocesan priest , whether or not he has a diocesan assignment and is living in a rectory?

  17. Fr. Stravinskas:

    Looking at the responses of a significant number of our “shepherds” I think we can rightly judge that they should not be “shepherds” and that the accusations bear substance.

    When looking at sacred scripture we see the response to those accused such as at Nineveh where immediately from the king down they put on sackcloth and ash and started fasting for their sins. Or when King David was told he was the man, immediately he was struck to his heart and repented doing the same publicly.

    Yet our “shepherds” when shown their sins lawyer up and refer to how they did some good or it wasn’t all that bad or it was some time ago so it should be forgotten. David only had one man killed but the moral courage to repent. These men have let how many innocent children be destroyed and have led how many souls to hell behind them with their disregard for Christ and His church.

    History channel or not, as if somehow that would make the Pennsylvania report better, these men are still accountable for their sins which have both personal and public consequences. Maybe they did seek reconciliation with God. There are still the public consequences and realities that must be faced where given their current actions they are not the good shepherd that lays down his life for his sheep but rather a shepherd that seeks to preserve his own status and that of his fellow shepherds at the cost of anything else.

    We have fallen into the cult of personality in this world and our church where we look to men and not to God. Pope Francis, based on his record, is definitely not the answer or has shown any interest in solving anything. Our cardinals and bishops forsake their sheep and neglect their duties and role as a father.

    A saint said the people get the priests they deserve, where you are right, that the terrible shepherds are God’s punishment for us sheep not living according to His calling. That is the sign of God’s anger with His church. If we lived more faithfully we would not tolerate the McCarricks or the Wuerls or the Cupichs or any of their kind and they would either rise to be the holy men they should or be cast out into the streets to pursue some other career.

    May God help us to live more faithfully, and may God help the shepherds to be true shepherds.

  18. Whoa baby. It was pretty good up until this:

    “Not infrequently, these people ask how the Church got such dysfunctional shepherds. To which, I reply (to their consternation): ‘You gave them to us!'”

    Sounds almost like childish blame-shifting.

    I think the pertinent rules of thumb read like this:
    1. As goes the Church, so goes the Culture.
    2. If it turns out to be the other way around, see #1.

  19. I think what the good Father Stravinskas points out about all of our sexual sins is so true. We are, as one body of Christ, all guilty of so many things as we were all sold a bill of goods by the enemy regarding sexual freedom. That it went so far as to enter into the clergy and child abuse is heartwrenching. I don’t think, or at least I hope, he is not blaming us all but just pointing out that none of us are blameless. Jesus died for all of our sins and pointed out that just even thinking sinful thought is serious sin. My only concern is that Father Stravinskas states that the flock comes to the clergy for white washing of our sins. We come for forgiveness as instructed by Jesus Christ. We should never expect white washing of sins and it seems a little harsh to call it that. But I understand how a clergy under attack may feel like attacking back at the rest of us sinners , whose sins are not publicized. God please help and heal us all and let us be one as Jesus asked for at the last supper.

    • When I spoke of looking for priests to “whitewash” one’s sins, I was referring to the unfortunate practice of not a few Catholics who “shop around” for a priest who goes easy on particular sins or even tells people that certain sins aren’t really sins at all.
      I was shocked as a seminarian to discover that an immensely popular confessor in my boyhood parish in the 1950s was so popular because, even then, he was telling married couples that artificial birth control was not sinful. Of the seven priests in the parish, he had the longest lines on Saturday evenings!

      • Unfortunately Father, it doesn’t require shopping around to find the priest who will go easy on you. Rather you have to shop around to find the priest that will actually tell you that sins are sins!

        In my experience and the experience of everyone I know, we have the opposite problem to what you are detaling. Where can we go to find this trove of priests who actually talk about sin? They seem to be rare indeed in the confessional!

    • Speak for yourself. All of us have had the Ten Commandments and the precepts of the Church and the Magisterium. All of us did not cave in to the “sexual revolution” and the feminazi agenda. Some of us were actually faithful to Christ and what His Church teaches. When the Church “went crazy” with the dumbing-down of the Mass, theology, catechesis, and FALSE ecumenism, after Vatican II, the world “went crazy.” As the Church goes, so goes the world. Now we are left with this horrible mess.

  20. Thank you for your article, Father.

    I want you to know that I no longer disagree with state investigations into the Church’s handling of sexual abuse against minors. I’ve just simply despair of the bishops’ credibility. I’ve given up. Let the states investigate, expose the corruption, and prosecute where and when needed. We wouldn’t be here If bishops and priests hadn’t covered up the moral failings and the possible crimes not only of priests and seminarians, but from among their own ranks. I’m simply tired.

    ~Theo

  21. Well, I can declare without worry of contradiction that all this nonsense can be laid at the feet (or hooves) of the Devil himself, who goes about the world seeking to sift us humans like wheat.

  22. When Father Stravinska proposes “checks and balances” on the papacy, he is uttering heresy in view of established Catholic doctrine on the papacy. As a matter of the Church’s divine constitution, the pope is neither subject to, nor can legitimately be judged by, any other earthly agency.

    This core doctrine logically and doctrinally precludes any other eartly agencies and institutions acting as “checks and balances.” What Father Stravinskas proposes is in fact a reprise of the Conciliarist and Gallican heresies.

    • This is true only for a validly elected Pope, who prior to being elected Pope, was in communion with Christ and His One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church. Prior to his election, Jorge Bergoglio publically supported same-sex sexual relationships as long as they were “private”, did not include children, and were not called marriage, thus denying The Sanctity of the marital act within The Sacrament of Holy Matrimony and setting himself apart from Christ and His One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church.(Catholic Canon 750) To deny that God, The Most Holy And Undivided Blessed Trinity, is The Author of Love, of Life, and of Marriage, is apostasy.

  23. We should not get worried about the current crisis. The Catholic Church has gone through many trying times since its inception 2000 years ago. Like the Martin Luther and the King Henry VIII. We thought that that was the end of the Catholic Church! We just need to pray and trust in Jesus that “the gates of hell shall not prevail against His Church”

  24. With all due respect to “waiting for the facts” it seems the facts were there decades ago and Francis made the conscious decision to deny them and elevate McCarrick anyway.
    And as far as hypocrisy of the media I couldn’t care less about that. How the Church judges Her members, as opposed to how the secular world judges Her members, that is the only important issue.
    How Francis has handled the issue of sexual (mis)behavior of the public at large (“Who am I to judge”) explains much in how he has handled this among the Church’s clergy.

  25. Fr. Stravinkas,

    Thank you for this very thoughtful article, the best thing I’ve read on the topic BY FAR.

    One thing the article and the comments reveal is to what a great extent our minds are creatures of the mass media. The Church, priests and people, continue to do a great deal of good throughout the world every day, and if this were the fare offered up by the media every day, we would all be greatly edified. But the very nature of journalism is to report exceptions to the norm, and so this is what they have us thinking about. Priests and laity who do what they should do are not going to get much coverage, nor should it be expected.

    Nevertheless, it is distressing to see these anomalies identified with the CHURCH. Predator priests, negligent bishops, cardinals and pope hardly constitute the Church.

    From Jacques Maritain’s On the Church of Christ:

    “To the extent that a man acts in grace and charity, he lives by the life of the Church, his actions manifest in him the very life of the Whole of which he is a part. To the extent that a man is lacking in grace and charity, to the same extent, if he is a member of the Church, he withdraws from her life. And the evil actions that he commits are no stains on the Church, because the Church has no part in them; they do not soil the face of the Church, except as the spittles of the soldiers soiled the face of Jesus. The sins of Alexander VI related to his own person, from which they proceeded; they did not relate at all, except in order to offend her, to the person of the Church.”

3 Trackbacks / Pingbacks

  1. The Plague of Infidelity and the Current Crisis -
  2. PopeWatch: Father Peter Stravinskas – The American Catholic
  3. The Church has a right to be herself – SCUTUM ET LORICA

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

All comments posted at Catholic World Report are moderated. While vigorous debate is welcome and encouraged, please note that in the interest of maintaining a civilized and helpful level of discussion, comments containing obscene language or personal attacks—or those that are deemed by the editors to be needlessly combative or inflammatory—will not be published. Thank you.


*